Fifteen photographs from Lalla Essaydi’s series, Harem, are now on view at Edwynn Houk Gallery through January 15, 2011. Essaydi (b. 1956) uses her work to acknowledge — and challenge — the conservative principles that shape the identity of Muslim women. Her work, which is grounded in art history, references artists from painter Jean Auguste Dominque Ingres to photographer Shirin Neshat. Photographed in the Moroccan palace Dar al Basha, Essaydi’s henna-covered models wear fabrics identical to the kaleidoscope patterns on the tile walls and floors. Each subject metaphorically emerges from the architecture and resembles, as the artist puts it, “the dangerous frontier where sacred law and pleasure collide.” This “collision,” mixed with iconographical references, is what makes Essaydi’s richly colored photographs pleasingly convoluted.
Harem is now on view at Edwynn Houk Gallery through January 15, 2011.